Interference an investigating officer can do without

Source: The Hindu 

Relevance: Separation of power is an important part of ensuring proper governance in the country.

SynopsisGrowing instances of judicial interference in an investigation are undesirable and also not sanctioned by law.

Background:
  • The death of George Floyd in the US in May 2020 and the horrific episode in Sattankulam, Tamil Nadu (killing a father and son) show acts of police brutality on the common citizens. Such instances justify regulations on the police authority to investigate an established crime.
  • Further, lower courts and High courts are sometimes seen directing a police officer to arrest a particular person in a crime. It is perceived as an act of aiding the investigation. However, such acts should be avoided. 
Why should the Judiciary not intervene in a police investigation?
  • First, it amounts to intervention in the domain of the executive, as police are accountable to the elected representatives and not the judiciary. Hence, intervention is a violation of the separation of powers. 
  • Second,  persistent intervention enhances public distrust over the police. This reduces police morale for working efficiently. 
    • In such a scenario, even a straightforward and law-abiding policeman will hardly be believed by the masses, thereby undermining the ethics of criminal justice.
  • Third, the court’s intervention shows a lack of faith in police ability and integrity. This will make grass-root level policemen even more arbitrary than now and force them into carrying out questionable actions.
  • Fourth, Court interference in the day-to-day investigation is not only undesirable but is also not sanctioned by law
    • The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) vests sufficient discretion in the investigating officer to make decisions on arrests and searches.
  • Fifth, there are sufficient safeguards in the law to prevent abuse of power by the police during the investigation.
    • Every investigation is supervised by at least two immediate senior officers. In the more important cases, there are a few more levels. It is their duty to ensure that every investigation is handled lawfully and impartially.
    • It is mandatory that every police station in the land should register a complaint under the relevant sections of a statute the moment a cognizable offence is made out in the complaint.
    • The CrPC makes it obligatory for the investigating officer to write a diary that details the action taken every day following registration. To such a diary are attached witness statements.
Suggestions:
  • Intervention in the investigation should be curtailed in light of recent observation by the Supreme Court. It said that courts have no authority to direct an investigating officer to arrest any particular individual connected with a crime.
  • Courts should remember that the police dept. has a well-established hierarchy to ensure objectivity during a criminal investigation. 
    • However, where supervisory officers fail in their duty because of sheer laziness or buckle under external pressure, they deserve to be pulled up by courts. But not before they are found guilty of indifference or malfeasance.
    • Further, when in doubt, the competent court can demand to see the case diary. If the content of such a diary establishes the complicity of an individual, the court can question an investigating officer as to what he proposed to do on the basis of such evidence.
Print Friendly and PDF